Alarming News

November 29, 2005

How gay are you?

The Vatican has published a document intended to clarify its position on homosexuals in the clergy. And, well, it’s still rather murky. Apparently, someone who is absolutely, positively, 100% gay can not be ordained. But someone who is sort of, almost, kinda gay can be. If someone has already been ordained, but realizes they are the definitely gay type, that can be worked out. About the latter type:

The cardinal said such a priest “has to try to live in chastity … maybe he will need more spirtual (sic) support than others, but I think he should be a priest in the best way possible.”

Try to live in chastity? Are the straight priests merely trying to live in chastity? Isn’t chastity a pre-requisite (and one of the big ones) for priesthood?

I’m not sure how these new rules will benefit the Catholic Church. Won’t would-be priests just pretend to be only kind of gay when they are actually completely so? Furthermore, as I’ve written previously, if priests are supposed to be celibate, what actually makes them gay? If the idea is that all priests, gay or straight, must suppress their sexual urges, what difference does it really make what their sexual urges are, or whom they are directed toward, provided these urges are never acted upon? As far as I understand, and Catholics can correct me if I’m wrong, it isn’t the homosexual thoughts among priests that are the problem here, but the homosexual acts. The Vatican is making a move on this because of the high AIDS rate among priests and in reaction to the child-abuse scandals which almost entirely consisted of abuse of young boys and not young girls.

It gets even stranger when you get into degrees of gayness. The document notes that ‘men with “deep-seated” homosexual tendencies should not be ordained but those with a “transitory problem” could be if they had overcome them for three years.’ It just seems to arbitrary. Why this strange three year mark? And how will they decide what ‘deep-seated’ means?

As I’ve written before, in response to Andrew Sullivan calling for priests to ‘come out’ but it applies here as well ‘If you’re gay or straight and can’t control your urges for the lifetime that your position demands, perhaps being a priest is not for you. It certainly isn’t for everyone. But to have priests come out as ‘gay’ while not acting on it is beyond absurd. Its really stating your sexual preferences in a setting that isn’t conducive to have sexual thoughts at all. It’s not about being gay, either, it’s just as weird as Father McGrady telling the press he fantasizes about ole’ Mrs. Margaret who sits in the third pew on Sundays. It’s just not appropriate in the context of their chosen life. Priesthood is about devoting yourself to G-d and not allowing earthly pleasures, like sex, to get in your way of that.’ This new policy isn’t very different from what Sullivan is advocating. It is inserting sexuality in a realm where it just does not belong.